SOUTHERN PINES – In arguably its most intense match of the season, the Richmond Senior High School Lady Raiders varsity volleyball team overcame an early one-game deficit to storm back and defeat No. 1 Sandhills Athletic Conference foe Pinecrest High School 3-1 Tuesday.
Keeping their winning streak alive, improving to 16-0 on the year, the Lady Raiders tied the program’s single-season record for wins. The historic start to the season is the best in RSHS’ history, and the most wins in a season since 2009.
In front of a rowdy James Moore Gymnasium crowd, the Lady Raiders (16-0, 9,0 SAC) defeated Pinecrest for the second time this season, but lost the first game to the Lady Patriots (9-4, 6-3 SAC) 25-19 after failing to match up defensively. Head coach Shellie Wimpey identified the issue, and Richmond battled back over the next three games to win 25-8, 26-24 and 25-18.
“The first game was tough for us because we weren’t playing the correct defense,” Wimpey noted. “Since this is the second time we’ve played them this year, Pinecrest knew what to expect, so we had to make adjustments in the second game. They (Pinecrest) did a good job of putting the ball where we weren’t in the first game, but our girls made the changes afterward.”
Despite an aggressive start in the first game, the Lady Raiders saw the lead change several times. Tied at 18, Wimpey called a timeout after going down 21-18. After a couple of unforced errors by the Raiders, Pinecrest closed out on a 7-1 run.
Game two was a complete 180-degree turnaround, as the Lady Raiders held the Lady Patriots to a match-low eight points. Tied at three, Richmond found its stride to go on a 10-0 run. Never looking back, the Lady Raiders went on a 15-5 run to end the set, and shifted momentum in their favor.
The Lady Raiders had three players reach double digits in kills, and four also had double digits in digs. Senior outside hitter Altman Griffin finished the night with 10 kills and 18 digs, while senior middle hitter Brianna Baysek racked up a team-high 11 kills, and added six digs.
Richmond finished the night with 36 team kills and 82 team digs. Senior middle hitter Owen Bowers was the other Lady Raider with double-digit kills, as she drilled home 10; she also dug the ball five times. Richmond also got support from senior setter Mackenzie Webb (35 assists, 11 digs, two aces and one block) and junior outside hitter Savannah Lampley (15 digs and five kills).
The Lady Raiders fell behind in the third game, 13-10, but were diligent in their chiseling away of the Lady Patriots’ lead. Pinecrest appeared to have the game in control, leading 22-17, but behind phenomenal serving from Webb and back-to-back kills from Baysek, Richmond finished on a 9-4 run to take a 2-1 lead.
In the final set, the Lady Raiders never trailed, and jumped out to a big 9-4 lead, before settling in to win 25-18.
“The girls battled hard tonight,” Wimpey said. “The streak continues, but we have a big game Thursday against Jack Britt. Hopefully having home-court advantage will work in our favor. But our girls have work so hard, and play so well as a team.”
The junior varsity team also faced tough competition Tuesday, and it too, held off Pinecrest for the victory, taking the match 2-1 by the scores of 25-23, 23-25 and 25-21.
Head coach Ashleigh Larsen, whose team has won 10 of its last 11 matches, credited her players for finding the will to come back and play the best volleyball they have all season. Defensively, Larsen noted, the Lady Raiders played really well, too.
Sophomores Jasmine Ewing and Madison Jordan, along with freshman Emy Cooley, “helped out the defensive unit.” Between the three, they racked up 29 digs, with Jordan leading the way with 14. Cooley had 10, while Ewing added five.
“The girls worked really hard tonight.” Larsen said. “I was hoping to see more aggressive play offensively, but there were glimpses of our girls playing really tough at the net. We can’t wait to host Jack Britt!”
Both Lady Raiders teams return home Thursday to host SAC opponent Jack Britt High School. The varsity team will look to set the single-season wins record (17), but will face a tough Lady Buccaneers team to do so. Junior varsity kicks things off at 5 p.m., followed by varsity at 6 p.m.